Australian Health Official Accused of $16 Million Fraud

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Queensland Police / AFP / Getty Images
Queensland Police / AFP / Getty Images

NewsFeed is a big believer in Christmas bonuses, but it looks as though this guy may have gone a bit too far.

A top Australian health official, who allegedly stole $16 million dollars destined for charities, has been arrested at his home in Brisbane, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Authorities say Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, also known as Joel Barlow, siphoned the mammoth haul over three years from Queensland Health, where he worked as a finance manager.

Reports claim he funded a lavish lifestyle and even passed himself off as a Tahitian prince in social circles, while police said it was one of the most significant fraud cases in the history of Australia.

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Barlow apparently redirected charity funds to his own bank account, culminating in a single $11 million transaction carried out in the past two weeks.

The 36-year-old was apprehended early on Monday after a four-day manhunt. Police were reportedly tipped off by a security guard that Barlow had returned to his multi-million dollar home. Authorities burst in to find him in a semi-conscious state. Barlow was then taken to Royal Brisbane Hospital and is expected to be released in the next few days to be charged with fraud.

And the case has wider implications, as Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has now announced that the health department, Barlow’s former employers, would be completely dismantled.

She branded the fraud the “final chapter in the life of the ailing agency.” Adding that it was difficult to tolerate the “sick administrative performance of this mammoth organization,” according to the BBC.

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Jak Phillips is a contributor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @JakPhillips. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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